OPENING SPEECH BY DR AMY KHOR, SENIOR MINISTER OF STATE FOR SUSTAINABILITY AND THE ENVIRONMENT, AT THE GRAND FINALE OF THE YELLOW RIBBON CULINARY COMPETITION ON 15 JUNE 2023
Mdm Shie Yong Lee, Commissioner of Prisons
Mr Phillip Tan, Chairman, Yellow Ribbon Singapore
Mrs Kim Lang Khalil, CEO, HCSA Community Services
Chef Elvin Chew, Executive Committee Member, Singapore Chefs’ Association
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1 Good afternoon. I am pleased to join you today at the Grand Finale of the Yellow Ribbon Culinary Competition. I thank Yellow Ribbon Singapore and the Singapore Prison Service for organising this meaningful competition, and for your continued efforts in galvanising our society to uplift ex-offenders.
2 This year’s competition brings together two elements that deeply resonate with me – food, and second chances. Let me first touch on food.
Food – Pursuing a career in F&B
3 To our talented inmates and HCSA Academy alumni, your dishes today are a testament to your discipline, creativity and teamwork. Qualities that you have shown throughout the culinary competition. I’m glad to have the chance to try some of your dishes, and they definitely look impressive.
4 I hope that this competition has sparked a passion in you for the culinary art. In the spirit of lifelong learning, it is important for everyone to acquire skills throughout your lives. This is an important habit for every one of us to cultivate, in continually enhancing our employability.
5 Let me share a story of one of our inmate participants, whom I shall call “Ms Hilary”. Since Hilary was 5, she would help out at her grandmother’s Nasi Lemak stall. Unfortunately, her grandmother passed on when she was 16, but having helped out for 10 plus years with her grandmother, she had gained the know-how of cooking Nasi Lemak, albeit informally.
6 During the competition, Hilary had the idea to cook a dish as a tribute to her grandmother. Her team agreed with her idea, and they went on to prepare delicious Nasi Lemak balls.
7 Hilary plans to join HCSA Academy Culinary Training Centre to pursue a WSQ Higher Certificate in Food Services upon release. I’m very heartened by this. I’m particularly glad to hear that she hopes to follow her grandmother’s footsteps to open a Nasi Lemak stall and is already taking active steps to fulfil this ambition.
8 Like Hilary, if you plan to pursue a career in the F&B sector, I wish you all success and hope to have the opportunity to try your food someday. My mum used to run a dessert stall in a primary school, and I used to help my mum prepare these dishes early in the morning – so I know first-hand that while a career in F&B can be challenging, it can also be very rewarding.
9 In my Ministry, we are working hard to sustain the hawker trade. If you are an aspiring hawker, the National Environment Agency (or NEA) has various schemes to support you in your career journey. You might want to consider some of these avenues later on.
a. NEA runs a Hawkers’ Development Programme which equips aspiring and existing hawkers with business management and culinary skills. Aspiring hawkers will have the opportunity to learn from experienced hawkers under a 2-month apprenticeship.
b. NEA also has an Incubation Stall Programme where aspiring hawkers are offered subsidised rentals over 15 months to help them establish their business.
10 plant-based protein, kindly sponsored by Monde Nissin. Alternative proteins are gaining global popularity. It has the potential to serve as a more climate-friendly source of protein. In Singapore, we are making a concerted push to advance innovation in alternative proteins. We are working closely with the industry to accelerate the growth and innovation of this field.
11 I thank the organisers for being adventurous and for making plant-based protein part of the competition. I also commend our participants for embracing this challenge with enthusiasm.
Second chances – Continuing on a positive journey
12 Let me now speak on second chances. I firmly believe that we should not be defined by our past mistakes. If someone is sincere in turning their lives around, and willing to put in the hard work, they should be given a second chance.
13 Let me share a motivational story about Mr Kartik, who is a HCSA Academy alumni. Upon his release in 2019, he pursued a diploma in Culinary Arts and went on to work in several F&B establishments. Today, he is an Executive Sous Chef in a fine dining restaurant. He has also appeared on a Vasantham cooking show and represented HCSA as part of the President’s Challenge Award.
14 Kartik is among many ex-offenders who show that you are not defined by your past, and anyone who works hard on their goals can create their own success. I hope this competition has set you on a positive journey, and has inspired you to keep this momentum going.
15 We all have a role to play in supporting our ex-offenders as they reintegrate into the community. To all our employers, partners and guests here today, thank you for supporting second chances. When you offer our ex-offenders a second chance, you create a ripple effect, inspiring others to do the same.
16 Let me conclude my speech by offering my heartiest congratulations to all our talented inmates and HCSA Alumni. Thank you once again for your wonderful dishes and I wish you all the best in your journey ahead. Thank you.